Around 1800, the Ducal Library in Gotha was one of the best-known princely libraries in the Protestant cultural area. After the ducal house of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg ceased to exist in 1825, the library was continued as the Gotha Library of the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
In the 19th century, however, the library was no longer able to maintain the universal expansion of its holdings. The circumstances of the time and the conditions for collecting had changed. The library was now confronted with an increasing production of literature and, at the same time, insufficient financial resources. New acquisitions took place almost exclusively in the area of humanities literature.
Several factors contributed to the decline of the library's importance in the ensuing period: Numerous works were sold during the Second World War, outstanding pieces of the collection were taken to Coburg and in 1946 almost the whole Ducal Collection was transported to the Soviet Union. In the GDR, the Gotha Library was largely regarded as a “closed collection.”
The Soviet Union returned most of the manuscripts and prints in the collection to the GDR in Gotha in 1956. Today, the research library supplements its holdings according to its collection profile.